When it comes to attaining IT leadership positions, women have come a long way — but there’s still a ways to go. According to a recent study in the Journal of Healthcare Management, women make up 74 percent of the healthcare workforce, but are only represented by 24 percent of the senior executive team. It’s a statistic that comes of no surprise to our panelists — Mary Alice Annecharico, Bobbie Byrne, MD, Jane Loveless, and Sue Schade — four influential leaders who have defied the odds and, in doing so, serve as role models for young women and men who aspire to become leaders in the field. In this four-part series, the four CIOs share their thoughts on the barriers that still exist for women — and how they can be overcome; why mentoring is so critical; the many benefits of women’s professional networks; and how technology can be leveraged to improve work-life balance. They also speak about their own career paths, the tough choices they’ve had to make, and the power of self-confidence.
- Flexibility & core work hours
- “We have to support healthy families.”
- Self-confidence — the 100 percent vs 60 percent stat
- “You’ll be held back by others, don’t hold yourself back.”
- “It’s okay to ask for forgiveness and not permission.”
- “Do something scary & a little bit outside your reach.”
- Women in STEM
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IT resources are hard to find and there’s never enough, and you can only balance things out for so long before you need to move on or encounter that push from the clinical part of the house.
It proves out a theory that I have in terms of women often being looked at for what they’ve already proven and done, but not necessarily for their potential, whereas men will be looked at for what they’ve done, but also what they could do.
Sometimes the organization in which you are planted is not the place where you are going to find that growth. I encourage and fully support those that find opportunities outside of the organization. While that may be a loss for my organization or for me personally, I encourage that kind of growth.
I believe they can be just as successful as men — even more, because once you have that right-brain thinking, women generally have the gentle, kinder left-brain collaborative, and you marry those two up and it’s dynamite.
Byrne: We’ve established core work hours, which is that if you’re working in the office that day — if you’re not on PTO or something else — everybody should be in the office between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That accommodates individuals who need to come in late because they’re getting their kids on the bus or something else, and then people who want to come really early so that they can leave early. It’s a balance. We want ultimate flexibility, but we can’t have somebody saying we can’t ever schedule a meeting because so and so works from 5 a.m. until noon and somebody else works from noon until 9 p.m. So we established that, and it’s worked pretty well.
Loveless: That’s an interesting concept. Do you then try to schedule the required meetings between 10 and 2, and you’re successful in doing that?
Schade: That’s a good idea.
Byrne: All the big meetings — anything that’s an all-team meeting or anything that has a large number of people — is always in that time period.
Schade: It’s tough to do within healthcare. When I say that, I’m just thinking about the number of 7 or 7:30 a.m. meetings or 5 or 5:30 p.m. meetings, and I say it’s tough to do because you are often working around key clinicians’ schedules and availability as well.
Byrne: Well I think for all of us, the number of times you look at your calendar and you say, oh man, I have a 7 a.m. doctors meeting and then I finish up with a board meeting that goes until 7 p.m. and then, oh by the way, I’m back the next day for a different 7 a.m. meeting. Those are characteristic of healthcare and can be tough.
Gamble: These are really good thoughts; especially since when you talk about women who have children, it’s not happening necessarily any more to 23 and 24 year olds. This is something where are at a higher level who needs that flexibility for child care, so that’s really interesting and it’s great to see that it’s a priority.
Annecharico: Kate, what are you seeing?
Gamble: I would say that it’s pretty mixed. I was in my mid 30s when I became a first-time mom, so I guess that’s a little bit on the older side. But for every person I know who has some flexibility there are still a lot of people who don’t, and these are women who have been in their industries 15 to 20 years who are still fighting that uphill battle when it comes to that. There still are rigid attitudes about the times that you need to be in the office. I think on the whole it’s changing, but there still is definitely some headway to be made there.
Schade: We’re talking about kids, but before you have kids you go through pregnancy, and to be supportive of pregnant women who are feeling stressed and working long hours is key. It’s not back in the 50s where you were being pampered; it’s being cognizant. I’ve got two daughters right now who are both pregnant. We talk about it, and I give them advice sometimes in terms of talking to their bosses. Someone who works for me who’s having her second child and is in her late 30s, and I’m extremely cognizant of the fact that if she’s tired, she’s got a long commute, if the older child who’s almost two is sick and she needs to spend some time working from home, to really be supportive of them to make sure that they are taking care of themselves and we don’t get into a situation where the work stress that may be on them is so great that it can lead to other issues and problems.
Loveless: That is definitely a fine balance because being in healthcare and IT. There are so many pressures, and having your team available and productive when you need them, especially when the clinical side of the organization needs to be here — they’re in patient care, and so they don’t have the option of working from home. It’s a not always perceived by others as positive. I know I’ve had issues that IT resources are hard to find and there’s never enough, and you can only balance things out for so long before you need to move on or encounter that push from the clinical part of the house.
Byrne: The needs of the business have to be met. That’s most important and that’s why we have jobs.
Schade: Absolutely. That’s our obligation to our organizations, so it’s that fine balance between how you are treating your employees and serving the organization.
Byrne: Back on the pregnancy thing, I did have a physician who was complaining that he had all these young women and he said he’s not going to hire young women anymore into his office because they just get pregnant and they leave. He was just aghast. And I said, ‘how would you like it if I said I wasn’t going to hire any 55-plus men anymore because they’re too much of a risk of having a heart attack?’
Schade: Good for you.
Byrne: Thankfully you can sometimes say these things with a twinkle in your eye and pretend that it’s humor, but with a little bit of truth. Clearly the numbers aren’t the same, but it’s just really tough. In this society we have to promote and support healthy families, and stressed out pregnant moms is not going to do a good job for that.
Gamble: Before we close I just wanted to give each of you an opportunity to just give any final thoughts you have on being leaders in your field, maybe about the opportunities that are out there for women and what you hope to see change or what you believe is changing.
Schade: I guess one thing that I want to comment on — and I’m not sure it gets totally directly at your question, but something that concerns me and that I hope will change and that’s the self-confidence that women have versus men. There was an article going around in the last few months, and I may not get the numbers right, but it said women will go for a new job if they have 100 percent of the skills and meet the requirements. Men will go for the job if they have 60 percent of the skills and requirements. It proves out a theory that I have in terms of women often being looked at for what they’ve already proven and done, but not necessarily for their potential, whereas men will be looked at for what they’ve done, but also their potential and what they could do, even if they’ve never done it before.
Part of that starts with our own self-view, so it’s the importance of being willing to stretch yourself; to develop that self-confidence and not hold yourself back. You’ll be held back by others, don’t hold yourself back. And the importance of finding role models that can help you move out of that. That’s one of the most important things I see in terms of women being able to advance in leadership roles.
Byrne: I would say the exact same thing. It’s okay to ask for forgiveness and not permission. It depends on your culture, but men do it all the time. Get out a little ahead of your skis. Move out of your comfort zone. I have the exact same thought.
Annecharico: Likewise. I think what we need to do is encourage young women to do something that’s very scary and a little bit beyond their reach, so that once they’ve accomplished it you’re there as a parachute if they don’t. But once they’ve accomplished it they have that reserve that is going to enable them to be fortified to move forward. The other thing that I think is important is that sometimes the organization in which you are planted is not the place where you are going to find that growth. I encourage and fully support those that find opportunities outside of the organization. While that may be a loss for my organization or for me personally, I encourage that kind of growth because it does then open a number of different doors may create those possibilities for them to grow in a faster upward trajectory.
Loveless: I have two teenage sons so I guess I’m thinking a little bit more in the younger generation. I’m encouraging women, when they’re looking for career choices or college majors or whatever, to focus on the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. We really have light years of responsibility to make sure women feel that they’re empowered to go into those fields. I think that it will open more doors for them. I believe they can be just as successful as men — even more, because once you have that right-brain thinking, women generally have the gentle, kinder left-brain collaborative, and you marry those two up and it’s dynamite. Also I’m trying to encourage my boys to make sure that they respect women and respect that they’re equal and that they deserve respect so that the next generation have less barriers than what we have.
Gamble: There’s so much great stuff here. I think this was so helpful. This was really enjoyable for me, and I think that this is really going to be a great thing for our audience to hear. So again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedules to do this. I really appreciate, and look forward to hopefully speaking with each of you individually again.